Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed a distinct pleasure for me to welcome you all here in Istanbul at the Ministerial Level Plenary of the Coordinating Committee meeting.
This is the second time we have gathered as Ministers under the GCTF. This is a strong testament to our continued determination to work together in countering violent extremism and terrorism in all their forms and manifestations.
Only 9 months have passed since the inauguration of the GCTF. We can all be proud with the momentum that has been set in motion, and the efficient operationalization of the Forum. This has been possible thanks to your active support and invaluable contributions, for which the GCTF Co-chairs are extremely thankful.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank Secretary Clinton and her able team of colleagues headed by Ambassador Daniel Benjamin for their strenuous efforts and excellent work. Their determination and contributions have been instrumental in making this Forum a successful reality in such a short time. It has, and continues to be a pleasure for us to work closely with them on our common agenda.
Terrorism and violent extremism are not new challenges. Their modus operandi may be new and constantly changing, but the nature of the threat is something the international community has been familiar with for quite some time.
Despite a rather long history of concerted effort and significant achievements however, terrorism continues to be a leading impediment to global security, stability and prosperity. It is a threat to all of us, without distinction. It also has the potential to undermine the atmosphere necessary for economic development. In fact, this is generally a calculated reason behind terrorist activities in some parts of the world. Countries in transition are often targeted with this intention. We recently witnessed the horrific attack in Yemen which was a real life reminder of the magnitude of the threat. Indeed countries with limited capacity in dealing with terrorism and particularly those in transition are often targeted by terrorist activities. Somalia and Libya immediately come to mind. But terrorists are bold enough to challenge each and every one of us, including those of us that have stronger defenses. They simply change their mode of operation, and become smarter in their dealings. One thing they do very well is to be in constant search of loop holes in our defenses and to adapt themselves accordingly. They are also gifted in exploiting the benefits inherent to open societies and in disguising their ill intentioned activities. This leaves our security establishments with a tremendous task on a daily basis. It is through their selfless efforts and sacrifices that we continue to fight this scourge and try to provide safety and security for our citizens. I take this opportunity to pay respect to all of them, and particularly to those that have been injured or killed in the line of duty.
While all of our countries are confronted by the threat of terrorism, it is a non-spoken reality that sometimes we have varying threat perceptions and national priorities vis-à-vis terrorist organizations and offenders. That said, I believe one thing is crystal clear to all of us: No country is immune from this threat and we cannot win the fight against terrorism unless we join hands. Moreover, this fight does not allow for complacency against any particular terrorist organization, irrespective of national threat perceptions or priorities.
I make this point with full conviction, coming from a country that has and unfortunately continues to witness the destructive and malicious realities behind terrorism. You are aware of our longstanding struggle against this scourge that continues to claim innocent lives in Turkey.
The gist of our experience in this struggle is twofold:
First, we cannot counter terrorism only through law enforcement measures. While the security component of the fight is critical, it is not alone sufficient to obtain the desired result. It is simply not possible to achieve lasting security at the cost of democratic freedoms. Hence, we have to preserve the critical balance between security requirements on the one hand, and democratic freedoms and basic human rights on the other. Counter terrorism strategies should be comprehensive and multi-disciplinary. They should be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
Secondly, any counter-terrorism strategy, no matter how successful on its own merits, can lead to tangible results only if it enjoys international cooperation and the true support of other nations. Any loophole in this chain, and terrorists will immediately zero in on that soft spot and capitalize on it.
Let me now draw your attention to a particular and revealing case.
The PKK terrorist organization conducts outrageous and indiscriminate attacks targeting our civilian population and law enforcement personnel alike. As you would recall, the documentary that was shown in NY at the formal launch event of the GCTF, revealed among many others, heartbreaking stories of the victims of PKK terrorism. The PKK continues to claim innocent lives in Turkey and the number of victims at its hands increases, as does our indignation against the PKK and its supporters. It was only a couple of days ago that we lost additional Turkish security personnel in this fight. They have paid the ultimate price and I bow with respect in their memory and extend my deepest condolences to their bereaved families. Let me take this opportunity to express our solidarity with all victims of terrorism.
I should underline the fact that Turkey will continue to fight PKK terrorism with full determination and in absolute compliance with the rule of law. We expect full support in this fight from the global community, in line with their international obligations. The PKK should not be able to continue its activities abroad, particularly in Europe under seemingly legal structures and façade organizations. Their continuing ability to do so is an affront to us all. Moreover, as stated by relevant international organizations, including EUROPOL, PKK activities, which include drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering and terrorism financing, are a security threat wherever they take place.
A challenge for us has been to counter the PKK's efforts to abuse the principle of freedom of expression and to benefit from the services of certain media outlets set up for its own purposes. The PKK has been quite successful in exploiting legal loopholes to set up and run TV and radio stations. They use such outlets for propaganda, recruitment, incitement to hatred and even operational purposes. Tackling this matter is particularly sensitive. It is an area where striking the right balance between security requirements and basic liberties is quite challenging. Therefore, we need to work very closely with our friends, particularly countries in which such activities are based, and to act according to the true nature of these activities. Our strong expectation is that the very reflex displayed against such PKK outlets should be the same with the one that would be demonstrated against other terrorist organizations.
The right to life and security are sacred; and terrorism infringes on these most fundamental human rights. We are all duty bound to protect our citizens against this scourge. And we can only do so effectively and efficiently, if we act in a concerted and seamless manner at the international level. This cooperation is not only about endorsing the right decisions and making powerful statements, but it is about taking concrete action and displaying unwavering political will. I take this opportunity to once again underline Turkey's full commitment in this regard and to voice our belief that this is a fight that the international community can and will win. And it is undertakings like this Forum that will make it possible. Therefore I wish to end by once again expressing our deepest appreciation for your support and contributions to the GCTF.
Terrorism has neither a religion nor an identity. We should fight against terrorism in all its forms with determination. It is not correct to link terrorism with any religion. We should continue our efforts with this understanding.
Let me now pass the floor to my distinguished Co-chair.
Madame Secretary, Dear Hillary, The floor is yours.